Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne reaffirmed his commitment to Italy despite union warnings that the company is set to shed jobs.

In an interview with La Repubblica, Marchionne, who also heads up Chrysler in the US, said: “Fiat has accumulated losses of EUR700m (US$916m) in Europe and is supporting these losses thanks to success in the United States and emerging markets."

Of the EUR3.5bn in operating profit Fiat expects this year, none will come from Italy where there has been a collapse in sales. He added: "I don't see anything until 2014. That's why investing in 2012 would be lethal."

He added: “I am trying to profit from the recovery of the American market, exploit it to the maximum, to attain the financial security that would allow me to protect the presence of Fiat in Italy and in Europe at this dramatic moment."

The chief executive's orientation towards the US and his repeated barbs against Italy have sparked anger in Fiat's heartland, noted La Repubblica, which added that social welfare minister Elsa Fornero had requested "urgent talks" with Marchionne.

Fornero told La Repubblica that Fiat had "a duty" to explain itself, adding that Marchionne "owes this not so much to the government or the shareholders but to Fiat workers and to the thousands of families that depend on it".

Fiat employs 197,000 people, including around 80,000 in Italy. The minister added: “Fiat has done so much for Italy but it also has responsibilities towards this country. We would like it to bear that in mind."

She said, however, the government could not impose its choices on a private company.

New vehicle sales in Italy plummeted 20.2% year on year in August. Trade union leaders fear Fiat could be preparing to announce the closure of one or more of its five plants in Italy which are currently running at just 50% capacity.

La Republicca said Marchionne has also come under growing criticism from his peers with fashion billionaire Diego Della Valle criticising his "bad decisions" which go against "the interests and the needs of the country”.

Antonio Di Pietro, a populist politician and leader of the Italy of Values party, said he was saddened that "people like Marchionne take money and resources from the country and do what they want with them”.

Giorgio Squinzi, head of the Italian employers' federation Confindustria, warned, though, that Italy could not afford to lose its auto industry. He said: “We should not forget that behind the auto industry there is a huge business for many companies that keeps the sector competitive."